Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They tried to take him inside to Jesus, but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they went up to the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus. (Luke 5:18-19)
You, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know when the master of the household will return—in the evening, at midnight, before dawn, or at daybreak. (Mark 13:35)
Read the comments: https://theriverwalk.org/2017/03/08/march-8-live-today-for-tomorrow/
As they were walking along, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.” Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.”
Relate: I like to pretend that I don’t much care what people think about me. For the most part that is true but it really depends on what they are thinking. If people think I’m crazy, maybe a little weird, I don’t mind. I know I am. If they think I’m out of shape, perhaps a little overweight, no biggie. I know I’m not. Well, not nearly as much as I was before hopping across oceans. If they think I’m ugly, that’s OK with me. So are they. But if people think I’m stupid or incapable of understanding something… we got issues.
I have always heard it said that Jesus only asked the first question as a lead in to the second. He was asking, “Who do others say I am?” only to get the disciples thinking of who they personally thought He was. The idea has merit and those who espouse it are probably right but sometimes I wonder if Jesus wondered if he was getting through to his hard headed disciples. I wonder if He wondered if He was effective. For example, when Jesus was twelve, He stayed at the Temple when His family headed back home. Once they realized He was missing they came back for Jesus and asked, “What do You think You’re doing?” (I can imagine Joseph asking this as he pulled Jesus by the ear out of the Temple) Jesus answered, “Didn’t you know I had to be about my Father’s business?” But then they told Him to get his butt in the car and go home and He obeyed. (Please forgive the artistic license) I wonder what He thought on that long donkey drive home.
But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.” (Mark 5:19)
Relate: I have heard time and time again sermons, illustrations, and messages about the time Jesus cast the demons out and sent them into a herd of pigs. I have heard some amazing insights and I have heard some stuff that made me question the speaker’s sanity let alone their scholarship. There is one simple observation that I don’t think I have ever heard anyone else make, perhaps some have and I just missed it, but either way it seems too obvious to be so often overlooked… Either one individual in the community was awfully rich or this herd of pigs that just drowned was actually a community affair. In today’s market, a herd of two thousand pigs is going to run between $300,000-$400,000. Can you imagine a four hundred thousand dollar investment and watching it run right off a cliff? If I owned my house and watched it, with everything inside it, including the car in the garage, go up in flames. Then I realized that I didn’t have any insurance on any of it… I’d probably start to have a little bit of an idea of what watching those pigs run off and drown themselves must be like. Lets keep that in mind when we get back to the rest of the story.
So the pigs are gone but nobody realizes it yet when crazy Joe comes waltzing into town. He’s dressed and… well, he doesn’t look so crazy anymore. There’s definitely a happy spring in his step as he walks right to the town square, a different kind of happy than when he used to be sitting around naked picking the legs of bugs with drool coming down the side of his mouth. This is a normal, sort of happy, like it’s his birthday and the party’s about to start or something. Everybody gathers around to watch what is about to happen. We all love a freak show and crazy Joe has been this town’s regular entertainment for years. Just so long as you don’t get too close. Joe has been known to pick the legs off more than just bugs. Anyways, with coming right into town… well, everybody loves a train wreck too and somebody’s gonna be having a real bad day real soon. I gather with the rest because I know I am faster than at least half the crowd. I don’t have to outrun Joe, I just have to outrun whichever out of shape fool becomes his victim. Crazy Joe looks around at the gathering crowd, smirks a freakishly normal, happy smirk and says, “I’ve got some good news and some bad news.” He tells the whole story but he lost most of us at tuned out with the pigs going kamikaze into the lake. Just like everyone else who had invested so much, I’m going to be thinking, “That’s great for you but perhaps you could go back to being crazy and I could get my pigs back?”
Relate: Read more at: https://theriverwalk.org/2017/02/20/february-20-can-i-have-my-pigs-back/
She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe. (Mark 5:27)
Relate: The single mother is a fairly common sight here as well as in America and the West but for very different reasons. Here it is sometimes because the husbands and fathers have gone off to fight and die for one side or another of the mess that is the multisided Syrian civil war. More often the father has sent his family off to safety while he remained behind to work and support them, or he has gone on ahead into Germany, the UK, or somewhere else to save up and begin to prepare while the rest of the family looks to join up through more legal means. That illegal, but often necessary immigration is safer and easier for one man to make alone than for a husband and father to try with his family, but it leaves the women behind with kids almost as if they were widowed or divorced for a time themselves.
No matter the reason, this growing worldwide trend of single mothers presents unique challenges simply because throughout most of history it simply could not exist in such numbers. In Israel during Jesus time and before, very few women would be able to live on their own, let alone do so while raising kids. A girl lived with her father until she was old enough to marry. Then she lived with her husband. If he died she would either remarry quickly, go back to living with her father, or if her children were old enough then she would live with them. This last case was most likely the one Mary and Jesus were in. Although the Bible doesn’t mention it, most scholars think one of the reasons Jesus did not begin his public ministry until thirty was because he remained at home until his brothers were old enough to be able to support the family. My dad died in my late teen years and I can only imagine what it would have been like at that age having to leave college to go back home and support my family. Back then the human race simply could not grasp the concept of working mothers or relatively equal wages. There is still room for improvement on that last point but thank God we have evolved to where the concept is possible and desirable.
At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46)
Relate: “Keep your head down!” Over and over that thought pounded in his mind as his eyes stung and his lungs burned while gas worked its way past his inadequate mask. Many others had abandoned the trench only to be gunned down immediately. He knew of none who had escaped that way. None were alive in his stretch of the trench. That was not completely true. There was one other man, Edward, who was completely blinded and his dying moans sounded more like the rasping of sandpaper along rough cut wood. He would not last much longer. The gas or the shelling had pretty much taken out everyone else in this trench near Ypres. As darkness settled all Hugh could do was wait. His fate was no longer in his hands. Silence would have reigned if not for those like Edward who were not going quietly into the long sleep. Either the Germans would come and he would be taken prisoner or the Allies, the French or his own British troops would press back and he would be saved. All Hugh could do was wait. While the burning in his eyes and lungs slowly grew worse, he sat back and begged God to just let him die.
To be alone in a trench at the second battle of Ypres during World War One would have been a horrifying experience. The Germans had released hundreds of tons of chlorine across the lines forcing the Allied forces to flee or die. The gas masks at the time were not prepared to handle such an attack and because the chlorine was heavier than the air, as night settled so this gas settled and concentrated in low lying areas… areas like the trenches. Over six thousand, mostly French, troops died of asphyxiation, and far more were partially or totally blinded as the gas burned away their eyes.
The cross also kills by asphyxiation. A nail was pounded into each forearm between the radius and ulna holding stretching his arms out wide. Another nail was driven through his feet to take the bulk of his weight. Jesus would have to push up against these nails to clear his lungs enough to be able to breathe. When the pain became too much or his strength gave way he would settle back against them. Then fluid would begin to fill his lungs. Eventually the need to breathe would force him to push up again enduring horrendous amounts of pain. Over and over again he would do this. Minutes stretched into hours that seemed like eternity as his will to live and physical strength fought against unimaginable pain.
Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” (Matthew 14:28)
Relate: Lord, if it is really You, tell me to come to You walking on the water. It is three AM. I don’t like being up this late but because there is an 8 hour time difference with everyone back in New York, it does happen more than I would care to admit. I was chatting with a friend a bit and that led to reading up a little more on CAIR. A podcast is playing with the fiery, anointed, but not always accurate John Gray is getting me all shaken up on the inside. Next thing I know I am reading up on the prophesies fulfilled by Jesus. I really should be sleeping and am about to shut it down for the night when I realize I haven’t written tomorrow’s devotional yet. If I am up this late now there is no way I will be able to be back up in three hours to give it the time these things deserve and have it done before church.
So it is three AM and I am reading Genesis 44 and 45. Then I skip over to Matthew 14. As I am reading this I feel God asking me, “Why haven’t you asked me this?”
That is not a fair question. I sold or gave away everything I own, paired my life’s possessions down to 100 pounds total divided into three suitcases, and hopped on to a plane not truly knowing where I would land to follow Jesus. I pretty much did the same thing again in moving from a safer Istanbul to here in Gaziantep this fall. I am watching as fewer and fewer Americans remain and even the ones willing to do so are being deported or barred from reentry. I have spent sleepless nights wondering where and how I will have funds to eat and leave the house every morning wondering if today is the day I will be noticed by the wrong polis or bureaucrat and am packing my bags to leave Turkey (or sitting in a jail cell for months like a friend in Izmir).
This is the laundry list I give to God but he just turns around and says again, “Why haven’t you asked me this?” I have no answer, but yet… I am incapable of asking. I am afraid if I do, “He will say, OK. Come.” That terrifies me.